Warm, Nourishing Foods: Balancing Vata Dosha
Every season is associated with a dosha in ayurveda — spring with Kapha, summer with Pitta and fall and winter with Vata. Each of these doshas has a tendency to increase within the physiology during its season. Thus, the heat of summer tends to aggravate the Pitta in us, while a dry, cold and windy winter tends to increase Vata.
These seasonal fluctuations of the doshas within us can be balanced by eating appropriately for the season. Desh (place) and kala (time) are important considerations in choosing what you eat. If you reflect, some of these choices come naturally to most of us — we head for cool beverages on a hot day and yearn to wrap our fingers around a steaming mug of soup on a chilly evening.
Vata dosha is composed of the air and space elements, and it governs all movement in the body. According to The Council of Maharishi Ayurveda Physicians, Vata is the dominant seasonal dosha from mid-October to mid-February. Even for those with less Vata in our makeup, it is important to take steps to keep Vata in balance during this time because of its seasonal influence.
Signs of an aggravated Vata include an irregular digestion, gas, constipation, intestinal cramps, poor assimilation and fatigue.
Eating to balance Vata
“Warm” and “cooked” are key factors in the Vata-pacifying diet. Nourishing soups and stews, hot cereals, hearty grains, wholesome beverages and heavy desserts like rich rice pudding all feel welcome on cold winter days.
To keep Vata in balance, favor the sweet, sour and salty tastes and avoid bitter, pungent and astringent foods. All dairy products, for example, pacify Vata. Always boil milk before you drink it, and drink it warm, with a pinch of cardamom or dry ginger in it. Sweet lassi is an excellent lunchtime beverage. Favor sweet, sour, heavy fruits, such as oranges, bananas, avocados, grapes, cherries, peaches, melons, berries, plums, pineapples, mangos and papayas. Vegetables should be eaten cooked; reduce raw salads. Beets, carrots, asparagus and sweet potatoes are good choices. In moderate quantities, the following vegetables are also fine, especially if they are cooked with ghee or oil and Vata-reducing spices: peas, green leafy vegetables (chopped small, with thick fibrous parts discarded), broccoli, cauliflower, celery, zucchini and potatoes.
Vata-pacifying spices include cardamom, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, salt, cloves, mustard seed and black pepper in moderation. Organic Vata Churna from Maharishi Ayurveda is a convenient, ready-to-use Vata spice mix. The Council of Maharishi Ayurveda Physicians advises cooking with it rather than sprinkling it on prepared foods as the preferred way of assimilating the benefits of the spices.
Favor foods that are liquid rather than dry, and warm rather than cold. Drink lots of warm water and sip 2-3 cups of Organic Vata Tea during the day.
Good eating habits
Vata dosha is balanced by regularity in routine. Eat three nourishing meals a day, and eat them at around the same times each day. Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast. Eat lunch, the heaviest meal of the day, close to noon. Eat a lighter meal, such as mung bean soup, for dinner. Your last meal of the day should be done at least three hours before you go to bed. If you snack in-between meals, eat nuts and raisins soaked in water (dried fruits aggravate Vata) or stewed fruit for a healthy dose of energy. Most nuts are Vata-pacifying.